Vodafone debuts the cheapest mobile phone ever

While Mobile World Congress is mostly about the most powerful handsets, the most dazzling mobile operating systems, and the next generations of wireless technology, it's fundamentally about communications.

And today, international mobile carrier Vodafone introduced what is a big advancement in the connection of developing nations, the first new mobile phone with a price tag of less than $15, the Vodafone 150.

Sure, the rugged little device looks more like a phone from 15 years ago than something bound for release in 2010, but for emerging markets like Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Turkey and India where it will launch, it is just fine.

And according to the International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Touré today, "Even the simplest, low-end mobile phone can do so much to improve healthcare in the developing world. Good examples include sending reminder messages to patient's phones when they have a medical appointment, or need a prenatal check-up...or using SMS messages to deliver instructions on when and how to take complex medication such as anti-retrovirals or vaccines. It's such a simple thing to do, and yet it saves millions of dollars -- and can help improve and even save the lives of millions of people."

The power of mobile phones in the developing world is genuinely amazing. Many people are experiencing the Internet for the first time on mobile phones, and according to the ITU today, many people now have a mobile phone subscription before they even have a bank account.

Of course, the BBC noted today that this sub-$15 price point isn't quite a tremendous accomplishment, as many mobile phones can be bought for around $20-$25 in emerging markets.

But it's still a record low by most accounts.

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